Recent passings in the Irish-American community.
1922 – 2012
Larry Reynolds, a masterful fiddle player from County Galway and a staple of the Boston Irish music scene, passed away on October 3 at the age of 80 from complications due to amyliodosis, a protein disorder.
One of thirteen children born and raised in Ahascragh, County Galway, near Ballinasloe, Reynolds immigrated to Boston in 1953. There he met his wife, Phyllis, with whom he shared a love of music. Reynolds quickly became a central figure in the blossoming Irish music community. Over the years, his talents were enjoyed by everyone from locals and fellow musicians to the Irish-American political elite, including House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and former Irish presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.
In 1976, Reynolds helped found the Boston chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and served as its chairman for many years. He was an inductee of the Comhaltas Hall of Fame and was also honored by the Irish Cultural Center of New England. He was the co-host of CCE’s weekly radio program of traditional Irish music on WNTN-1550, which he first co-hosted with fellow fiddler Seamus Connolly, and later with his son Sean Reynolds.
Though most of his life was dedicated to music, Reynolds was a carpenter by day, He was a father to five sons and a daughter, all of whom play Irish music. He is also survived by Phyllis, their 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, in addition to one sister, Eleanor, in California, and a brother, Sean, who still lives in Ahascragh. – Michelle Meagher
1935 – 2012
Isaiah Sheffer, the visionary behind Symphony Space, a venue for the performing arts on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, died on November 9 of complications following a stroke, his wife, Ethel, told the New York Times. He was 76.
Over 30 years ago, Sheffer oversaw the transformation of an abandoned skating rink and movie theater into an esteemed institution for the arts. In his 32-year tenure as artistic director, he introduced an astounding array of programs in music, dance and theater, literacy initatives and high-profile literary events, including the popular “Selected Shorts,” which features acclaimed actors reading short stories and is broadcast weekly by NPR on more than 160 radio stations across the nation.
A lover of literature with a special fondness for James Joyce, the Jewish Sheffer created the annual “Bloomsday on Broadway” celebration, which entered its 31st year this June. Each Bloomsday, Sheffer invited actors, writers, figures in the Irish community and Joyce aficionados to participate in readings of Ulysses that would start mid-day on the 16th and go on well into the early hours of the following day. In recent years, readers included Stephen Colbert, Tony Roberts, Marian Seldes and Colum McCann. Traditionally, actress Fionnula Flanagan brings Bloomsday to a close with her celebrated reading of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.
Sheffer was born on December 30, 1935 in the Bronx, and grew up in Greenwich Village. In addition to Ethel, he is survived by his daughter, Susannah, and a sister, Barbara Brook. – S.L.
Arthur William Vincent
1919 – 2012
Arthur William Vincent, known as “Billy,” died at the age of 93 on October 18. He was a former vice-chairman of the American Ireland Fund, and, prior to its merger with The Ireland Funds in 1987, had been president and chairman of the American Irish Foundation.
Vincent was born to an Irish father and an American mother in London on July 17, 1919. He grew up in Muckross House, Killarney but frequented California, his mother’s birthplace. He was educated in Bryanston School in Dorset, and received his BA from Magdalene College, Cambridge. He enlisted as a guardsman in the Irish Guards at the start of World War II. With the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers he served in India, the Middle East and Italy.
After the war, he moved to California and joined United Helicopters. In 1949, he was named vice-president in charge of sales. Vincent later partnered with the Carver-Dodge oil company in 1962, and in 1983 he was appointed chairman of the board of Inishtech Capital Fund Ltd. He was a director of Independent News Media from 1990-99.
Vincent co-established the Parnell Fellowship for Irish Studies at his alma mater in 1990. He has been honored by Trinity College Dublin and the University of Ulster. In 1998 he moved to Monaco, where he spearheaded the establishment of The Ireland Fund of Monaco, and served as president until he stepped down in 2005.
Vincent is survived by his wife, Elisabeth and his stepson, Marc, and grandsons Mathieu, Antoine and Adrien. – Michelle Meagher